If you’re one of those people still scoffing and rolling their eyes at the recent popularity of EDM (electro/dance music: that’s what all the cool kids are calling it now) then there’s a possibility that the music industry has outpaced you.
Electronic music is turning out to be this decade’s punk rock. And at the helm of the electronic music movement is an axis of young musicians who were nobodies five years ago. One such musician is 24-year-old James Blake, who has returned with his second album Overgrown, which sounds like a murkier and more adult extension of his self-titled debut album.
“Retrograde”, the lead single from Overgrown, told fans almost everything they needed to know about the album – that it was going to be epic and emotional. James Blake is no stranger to producing broody and contemplative music, but on Overgrown he gets a little darker and deeper with scant lyrics and robust, towering arrangements. Even though it has only been two years since his debut album, the amount of development that James Blake’s sound has gone through is extraordinary. Here he is a lot more assertive and daring with his musical direction – a self-assured middle finger to all the naysayers of the divisive EPs he has released in between James Blake and Overgrown.
The album isn’t perfect. It’s easy to tell that this is only his second album and that he still has a lot of learning to do. This is quite clear on “Take a Fall for Me”, his collaboration with award-winning rapper RZA. The song seems lost and awkward in the album, stuck between fiercer tracks “Life Round Here” and “Retrogade”. Similarly, “DLM” meanders for a painful two-and-a-half minutes, sounding too experimental and a little clumsy in places.
However, the album is anchored brilliantly by the Brian Eno-produced “Digital Lion” with chilling chants and gospel-inspired vocals. Other songs to look out for include “Voyeur” and “I Am Sold”, both of which are atmospheric and haunted with James Blake lamenting his sorrows in soft and morose croons that can sometimes become desperate high-pitched cries.
A week ago, James Blake told The Guardian that he doesn’t care if people download his music illegally. Whether he’s being progressive or simply displaying youthful arrogance is anyone’s guess. But with a record like this, he has plenty to be arrogant about.